04/03/2013, 00.00
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Three Bangladeshi bloggers arrested for offending Islam

by Sumon Francis Gomes
The activists face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 10 million taka (100 thousand euro). Protests of the Shahbag secular movement: "It is a violation of freedom of speech and an insult to democracy." In the country a blasphemy law does not (yet) exist.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Bangladeshi authorities are now targeting internet. The Dhaka police (Dhaka Metropolitan Detective) have arrested three bloggers (see photo) for publishing "offensive comments about Islam and the prophet Mohammed" on various websites. Officers arrested Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, 24, Russel Parvez, 36, and Mashiur Rahman Biblop, 42, in their homes, seizing even computers, modems and external hard drives. The activists of the Shahbag movement, to which three belong, are demanding the immediate release of the bloggers, calling their arrest "a violation of freedom of speech and an insult to democracy."

"These atheists bloggers - deputy police commissioner Molla Nazrul Islam, told a news conference - attacked Islam and Hinduism, the Prophet Muhammad and the Hindu god Ram, using various pseudonyms. We identified eight other bloggers and we are going to also detain them. "

In Bangladesh the crime of blasphemy is not punishable. Those arrested are charged with infringing the Information and Communication Technology Act of 2006, if found guilty, they face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 10 million taka (about 100 thousand euro). However, according to Shahriar Kabir, head of the Committee for a Secular Bangladesh, their arrest is wrong and is likely to create a serious precedent, "Even if the Islamic fundamentalists continue to demand blasphemy laws like those in Pakistan, the government should not create controversies taking action against 'anti-religious bloggers'. Otherwise, it risks destroying the secular spirit of the country ".

For about a month, the investigative unit of the capital has been monitoring "anti-religious activities" online. Blogs have in fact become very popular places of debate, used in particular by lay Shahbag activists, a movement that takes its name from a neighborhood in Dhaka, where it held its first peaceful demonstrations against the war crimes committed by the Islamic party Jamaat- e-Islami in 1971. The secular nature of Shahbag and the request not to use religion for political purposes has attracted the ire of supporters of the Islamist party. The tension rose with the murder of Asif Mohiuddin, one of the leaders of the movement, stabbed during a protest on January 14.


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